Most children with autism and communication and interaction needs do well in school, however, some children may require more support.
The Communication and Interaction support service is part of SENSS which is a countywide Special Educational Needs (SEN) teaching and advisory support service. Find out more about us.
This information is aimed at teachers and other professionals. If you are a parent or carer, you are welcome to look at the information in this section - but you will find support information for you here.
The Communication and Interaction Support Service can provide support at different levels.
Universal support - no referral is needed
- No referral is needed
- Advice is about best practice for all children
- No names consultations can take place
- School staff must refer to the SEN guidance to inform provision and complete one or more intervention cycles of assess/ plan/ do/ review.
- The Communication and Interaction Support Service can offer arrange of advice and training to inform classroom and school wide universal practice.
Targeted and specialist support - an individual referral is needed
- The service accepts referrals from schools only, not from parents
- The school refers only after a discussion with the specialist advisory teacher to confirm that a referral is necessary
- The school must inform and involve the family, but parental consent is not required.
- The child or young person may or may not have an education, health and care plan (EHCP)
- The child or young person must be on the SEN register
- Once a child or young person has been referred there is no need to re-refer if further targeted or specialist input is required at a later date – their case file will remain open with the service.
If additional, regular specialist input is required from an advisory support worker, or if there is a need for consultation with the SENSS Communication and Interaction SEMH lead, this will be arranged by the specialist advisory teacher.
Before making a referral
You must have implemented strategies as recommended in the relevant communication and interaction pages of the SEN Guidance ‘Identifying and Supporting SEN in Oxfordshire Schools and Settings’ and you must have had a pre-referral discussion with your school's specialist advisory teacher.
Levels of support
At this level, SENSS offers training, support and advice to school staff. This will help most children and young people with communication and interaction needs to be fully included.
At this level there is no need for a referral to our service as children are not supported individually
To receive this level of support, children and young people will be on the SEN register receiving school support. They may or may not have an education, health and care plan (EHCP). These children will need more input and support. This may include further advice and training, small group or individual support.
At this level a higher level of individualised support is needed.
The child or young person may or may not have an education, health and care plan but their communication and interaction needs are making it difficult for them to learn and join in with other children.
At this level the specialist advisory teacher will have more involvement, this will vary according to the needs of the child, but it may include support for personal organisation, understanding their own differences, engaging with the curriculum, building peer relationships, behaviour, anxiety, transition and so on.
These children will be individually referred to the service after a conversation between the SENCo and advisory teacher.
Download our Statement of Purpose (pdf format) for more detailed information about what support the Communication and Interaction Support Service advisory team can offer
Support to schools is provided by a range of specialist staff:
- specialist advisory teachers (SATs)
- advisory support workers (ASWs)
- social, emotional and mental health lead staff (SEMH lead)
Every school has a designated SAT – if you are unsure who your SAT for communication and interaction needs is please contact the communication and interaction team.
- Schools information leaflet (pdf format, 300Kb)
- Statement of Purpose Advisory (pdf format)
- Criteria for involvement (pdf format)
Training for schools
A knowledgeable, confident and well trained workforce is key to making effective provision for children with communication and interaction needs. SENSS Community and Interaction Support Service offers a range of training options to schools.
SENSS Universal (bite size) training offer
As part of our universal offer, we can deliver short training sessions of up to one hour free to school staff on a range of topics including:
- communication friendly classrooms
- Social Stories™
- sensory needs
- Zones of Regulation™
- visual supports
- colourful semantics
- AET progression framework
- executive functioning.
For more information, download the Universal Training Offer leaflet (pdf format, 1Mb) or speak to your Communication and Interaction advisory teacher
We can also devise bespoke training according to school needs.
Talk to your Communication and Interaction advisory teacher about your school development priorities and CPD needs so that they can plan a training programme that will take your provision forward.
Autism Education Trust
We can deliver a range of AET training modules in schools as part of inset or as twilight or staff meeting sessions.
Please contact your school’s named advisory teacher for more information
- Making Sense of Autism: Level 1: Training for everyone working in a school or setting: 60 - 90 minutes (free)
- Good Autism Practice: Level 2: Training for staff directly supporting Children with Autism: One day (charges apply)
- Extending Good Autism Practice - Half day (charges apply)
- Leading Good Autism Practice - One day Level 3 course for SENCOs and school leaders (charges apply)
- Complex Needs and Participation - One day
For more information visit the AET website.
We can also deliver training in a range of other interventions to support the development of speech, language, communication and interaction skills, for example:
Training for schools in partnership with parents
SENSS offers a range of training options for parents and schools in partnership. Training in parallel with parents offers a unique opportunity for a holistic understanding of children’s needs and preferences and forges strong working relationships
For 5-12 years
School With Families Together (SWIFT)
Primary SWiFT is a six-week course for schools parents carers and families who have a primary school aged child on the autism spectrum or with similar communication and interaction needs. For more information please click here;
This course is run by SENSS Communication and Interaction specialist advisory teachers and advisory support workers
For more information please download leaflet the SWiFT information leaflet (pdf format, 288Kb) and the update on SWiFT courses from September 2020 (pdf format)
For 12-16 years
Secondary SWIFT is a four-week course for schools, parents carers and families who have a secondary school aged years on the autism spectrum or with similar communication and interaction needs.
This course is hosted by the school and is run by SENSS Communication and Interaction specialist advisory teachers and advisory support workers
For more information please download leaflet the secondary SSWiFT information leaflet (pdf format, 1.9Mb)
For ages 5-18 years
All Things Autism
SENSS C&I Advisory teachers also support All Things Autism, a six-week course for parents, carers and families who have a child who has recently been diagnosed with autism. The course is hosted by Oxfordshire CAMHS and supported by the SENSS team, Speech and Language Therapy colleagues and other professionals from education and health.
For more information please download the All Things Autism information leaflet (pdf format)
The Puffin Programme
Purposeful Family Focused Intervention is a six-week course for schools parents carers and families who have a child aged 5 years or under on the autism spectrum or with similar communication and interaction needs.
This course is run by Early Years SEN Inclusion teachers (EYSENITS)
For more information please download leaflet the Puffin information leaflet (pdf format)
Resources for schools and other professionals
Resources to support children with special educational needs
Oxfordshire SEN Primary and Secondary SEN Guide .
Resources to support children with communication and interaction needs
- Sensory Issues in Autism - East Sussex Council (pdf format)
- Sensory Differences Strategies - Autism Education Trust (pdf format)
- Sensory strategies (Autism Education Trust) (pdf format)
- Sensory Environment checklist (Autism Education Trust)
- Autism, change and transition - Autism West Midlands (pdf format)
- Transition Toolkit - Autism Education Trust (pdf format)
- Transition booklet (pdf format)
- Visual Supports (National Autistic Society)
- What are visual strategies (Autism Education Trust)
Managing stress and anxiety
Puberty, sex and relationships
- Puberty – A guide for teenagers on the autism spectrum and their parents - La Trobe University (pdf format)
- Relationships, sexual health and parenthood resource - TLS Scotland (pdf format)
- The protection of CYP with autism from violence and abuse - NAS (pdf format)
- Safeguarding children with autism (pdf format, 800Kb)
- Star Toolkit – online safety (Child net)
- Bullying and autism (NAS)
Most children with communication and interaction differences have their needs met in their local mainstream school, where they can learn alongside their peers and in their local community.
Some children, however, may require the support of a more specialist setting, but are still able to follow the mainstream curriculum.
Communication and interaction resource bases can meet the needs of these children and young people.
In a base, children:
- follow the same curriculum as peers in mainstream classes with some additional support from specialist base teachers and teaching assistants
- Are included as much as possible in school life, including both learning and social opportunities.
- Have extra support from base staff for things they find more difficult, such as social interaction, communication for learning and personal organisation
- Can use the base as a safe space to withdraw to if the sensory and social pressures of the mainstream school become too much.
For more information about what a communication and interaction base has to offer, download our Statement of Purpose and Core offer (pdf format).
Places in resource bases are allocated by the local authority admissions panel.
If it is clear that the provision set out in the EHCP cannot be made in the local school and the child needs more support than the mainstream school can offer, the SENCo should involve parents fully in discussions about further efforts to sustain the placement.
The school can initiate an annual review of the EHCP to discuss ways forward with parents. This meeting may recommend a change of placement and suggest to the special educational needs officer (SENO) that a referral is made to the SENSS admissions panel for a base place.
Evidence provided to the panel should reflect the adjustments that have been made and interventions in place to support the provision in the plan, as well as information about the impact of specialist advice and additional support received.
The panel meets every month and may decide to place a child in a base - or may make recommendations about further support the current school could try.
- Admissions indicators for communication and interaction bases
- Admissions processes for specialist provision.